Totally Off Topic Brag

You are looking at one full month of successfully completed NYT Crossword puzzles. This took me YEARS to achieve. Go me!

A while back, maybe 2010, I was in a headspace that did not provide enough concentration to read books. This left a significant hole in my leisure time. Blogs were popular but hadn’t exploded, or at least I hadn’t found them. Netflix was still sending out DVDs. I rented Wordplay, a documentary about the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Hmm. I like puzzles. I bought a few books and went to town. Actually, I went overboard. I reeled myself back in and compromised on one puzzle a day.

The NYT folks don’t do a good job of letting people know that the puzzles increase in difficulty throughout the week, from Monday to Saturday. Sunday puzzles are not the hardest. Saturdays are. Sundays are actually Wed/Thur level of difficulty. They are just bigger.

If you have a modicum of crossword skill, you should be able to do Monday and Tuesday puzzles straight out of the box. They took me 3 to 4 days to master. Wednesday and Thursday took me 3 to 4 months to get alongside. Friday and Saturday took me 3 to 4 years before I would even fill them out completely. Took me almost that long again before I got my first completely correct Saturday. There was a long time of missing by one.

A perfect record for the month? That means getting all the puzzles done and doing on them the day, or the night before. Puzzles are published 10 pm Eastern time.

Switching to digital helped. Although I was diligent about checking my print answers, I didn’t always find all my misteaks. That’s a lot of little letters to keep track of. Digital will keep you honest and provide hints if you need, either by square, word, or entire puzzle.

When the current crossword editor, Will Shortz, took over, he moved away from obscure rivers in Africa, among other changes. There is the occasional crosswordese, but the modern NYT crossword is more about clever clue writing.

If you like pencil puzzles but have been intimidated by reputation of the NYT crossword, please reconsider. I enjoy them every day, even the ones that stump me.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Categories: Off Topic

4 replies »

  1. A whole month of completion! Wow! What an inspiration!

    I tried crosswords for a while but found them frustrating. When we traveled, I used to do the USA Today daily ones. They were just right for the short time I devoted to them. Then I tried the NYTimes and enjoyed them for a while but eventually became too obsessed. The digital version is easier to use, I agree. But the daily deadline was too stressful.

    My current daily puzzle quota is the Set puzzle (shapes), jigsaw (shapes), Wordscapes (crossword), Suduko (number patterns) and Solitaire. All have a daily offering. The last three keep track of the daily and monthly completions.

    Solitaire does one set of 5 daily and a larger set (20-30) very other day. Then you can disappear into a third series which has no time factor and seems to be endless. I eventually got too obsessed with that and forbad myself to go beyond the 5-a-day Solitaire. However, this summer I was in a tough place and found that losing myself in Solitaire was helpful. Better now, I’m looking for new challenges.

    Maybe I should go back to crosswords.

    Thank you.

  2. Genius? Nah. I’m clever, in a left-brain, word-centric way. That part is not a brag. Those are the cards I was dealt. In this case, I’m pleased with my steady application to task. I found some dated material. It was at least 2009. So this represents a decade of effort.

    “My current daily puzzle quota …” I did Suduko for a while. I got into it as far as the flying x-wing technique and had to pull myself out.

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